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Revealing the Organization’s Guiding Principles

Revealing the Organization’s Guiding Principles
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What is a story that describes your organization at its best? In this excerpt from The Shift from Me to Team, which will be published this year, we look at the context for this question in our Culture Clarification process with clients.

MY REQUEST OF YOU: We would appreciate your feedback. Please share what you like and what could be improved. #leadership #peakperformance #GuidingPrinciples #storytelling #team #teamdevelopment #ShiftFromMeToTeam


In the Culture Clarification process we guide our clients through, Guiding Principles may be the easiest component to address. Team members’ feelings are clear and evident at all times, and they know what makes them feel good about their work and what is de-energizing.

Guiding Principles: How teammates desire to work together for Peak Performance. We share the many Guiding Principles revealed in the survey and ask team members to come prepared to lobby for the three exemplary stories they feel must reside as a part of their Core Identity.

The Prompt: Think about a story you would tell a significant other or a new employee that would paint a clear picture of the organization performing at its best under pressure.

Team members share stories in small groups and choose the best stories to share with the larger group. The energy is easy to feel. People are engaged in meaningful storytelling. We often hear stories about management and team members going above and beyond to help one another in a time of need. Management is listening to team members’ perspectives. Team members engage each other in stories of “at our best.” The energy in the room is genuine and heartfelt. People do not forget this day when management asked them to share what was most meaningful to them and permitted them to set the standard for the organization’s future.

From a university medical department chair

“There were maybe sixty or seventy of us, and the team came up with the Guiding Principles, Purpose, and Vision. They came up with what felt right to me, but it came out of their mouths.”

From the CEO of a branding agency

“This has freed up energy—energy coming from the freedom of not dealing with problems that occupied so much of my time before we had employees invested in the values . . . who take ownership over keeping their work within the scope and realm of our values.”

Who We Are Is in How We Treat Each Other

One of the mechanics who repaired large vehicles for a client shared with us, “I was stuck underneath this truck with the wrong tool, and my hand was holding a part I could not let go of. I thought I would have to put all this back together, crawl out, and try to find the tool I needed when one of my fellow mechanics bent over and asked me if I needed a hand. I asked him if he knew where the special tool could be found and could he retrieve it for me, a special tool others hid for their personal use. He was back with just the tool I needed in no time, and I could complete my project. This would not have happened at my previous employer. At this company, people have your back, and it’s reassuring to know that when you’re in a jam, somebody will be there for you.”

Allowing Feelings to Be Expressed

We focus on the positive picture we desire to create at the retreat. However, there are team members who have been hurt or upset by past events. They feel their values have been betrayed. It’s like they carry a trash bag to collect all the wrongs that have been committed against them over time. If they do not have the opportunity to dump the bag, the trash keeps building up. Through experience, we’ve learned that those who’ve been hurt cannot get past perceived violations until they have been respectfully heard. They must dump their bag of trash before they can move on.

Most often, these dumping events happen in our one-on-one interviews. However, they can surface during the retreat, and the emotion in the dumping of the wrongs is real, as is the respect they are given for their feelings. This creates trust in the process. Sometimes the trust created is so deep that those perceived to be the most negative end up being surprisingly engaged and supportive of the process moving forward.

Team members leave the retreat with a new understanding of how they should treat each other, what is good for the team, and what hurts the team’s performance. We see the shifting from Me to Team taking place.